Reframing issues in the digital age

By Julie Sweetland and Rob Shore, FrameWork Institute, Nonprofit Quarterly |

One of a social advocate’s most critical acts is to frame an issue. In framing, a communicator uses language, metaphor, and other means to bring the community into the issue in a particular way.

So, for instance, tobacco control advocates reframed tobacco from a “personal vice” narrative, in which the public discourse centered around individual choice and behavior, to a “defective product” narrative, in which the role of corporate malfeasance and the need for protective regulations became clear.

Reframing an issue is hard work, as frames are socially shared and persist over time; but it is worth it, because public opinion and policy preferences are frame dependent. The stories nonprofit communicators tell have the power to make the public more or less supportive of positive changes — for instance, in the way we support human health and well-being, distribute society’s resources, and redress long-standing injustices.

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